C. W. Thamotharampillai from Jaffna was the first graduate of the University of Madras. He was born in 1832 in a hamlet near Jaffna. He had his school education at the American Mission School at Tellipallai and later studied at the Batticaloa Seminary, Jaffna.
He commenced his career as a school teacher and soon developed an interest in publishing Tamil works. In 1853 he published the Niti-neri-vilakkam, a minor ethical work, with notes. The same year he was invited to Madras by Rev. P. Percival who hard earlier lived in Jaffna, to take up the editorship of the Tamil periodical Tinavartamani. Soon after he was appointed a Tamil Pandit at the Presidency College, Madras.
C.W. Thamotharampillai and a fellow student from Jaffna, Daniel Caroll Vyramuttu Visuvanathapillai, were the only two who sat for the University's final B.A. exams in the year it was founded, 1857, and both passed the exams to become the first graduates of the University of Madras. But Thamotharampillai scored higher marks and was placed first, so is considered The first graduate of the University. His portrait, I'm told, used to hang in the University's library. Both Thamotharampillai and Visuvanathapillai were graduates of the Batticotta Seminary (now Jaffna College) that American missionaries had started near Jaffna in 1824. A higher secondary institution that offered students almost a university syllabus, the seminary turned out all-round students with a solid foundation in Western and Eastern literature and sciences. This grounding enabled both Jaffna boys to sail through their examinations in Madras. They, however, as their later record as Tamil scholars was to vindicate, were outstanding students too.
C.W. Thamotharampillai went on to become an Examiner of the University of Madras in Tamil. He is, however, best known for his Ilakkana Vilakkam that was published in 1889. Caroll Visuvanathapillai, on the other hand, made more broad-ranging and, in a couple of cases, controversial contributions to the Tamil literary scene.